Apple’s Artform: Graceful Technology Advances Without Retro Feelings

| Particle Debris

Today's tech-minded customers like to be part of advancing technology. It's fun and exciting. But if a company pushes too hard and in the wrong ways, without an understanding of customer psychology, relentless change can become the enemy. One sure sign of that is when people start to celebrate retro ways of thinking.

Ah, the good old days. Simplicity. Image credit: Shutterstock.

Everything old is new again. Whether it's the current retro fondness for vinyl records, paper magazines, old clothes or actually shopping in a real store, people seem to be reacting to the relentless pace of technology change. This headlong rush into the future has people responding in interesting ways. For example, a rare exception for Apple is that while iTunes and Apple Music can be a challenge to use, there's nothing simpler than putting a vinyl record on a turntable. (Not for me though.)

One sign of the impact of Internet commerce is that, this week, we learned that Amazon has been putting serious pressure on Walmart, and Walmart's projections for earnings aren't rosy. See: "How Amazon is eating Walmart's lunch." But, darn it, people do like to get out and shop. Talk to people. And sightsee. The trick, it seems, is to figure out how to recover a balance in favor of the brick and mortar stores by using an understanding of shopper psychology.

Here's a brief introduction to a longer research report from Business Insider that covers some of those essentials for shoppers. "Brick-and-mortar retailers are betting on these 5 in-store technologies to win back shoppers."

Image credit: Business Insider

And so, the trick to embracing customers isn't always about the latest and greatest technology via mail order. That's attractive for some small companies thanks to the low overhead. But the real story is about a company's relationship with the customer. And nowhere else is that more important than Apple's retail stores. They are a conduit to customer relationships that last and have value. Look at the chart above. Apple scores on all six factors. And when people feel happy and educated about the buying experience from a company that puts them first, they tend to embrace the new technologies.

Again, an always interesting contrast is Amazon.

For example, here are some interesting thoughts about "Amazon is killing the category it popularized, dedicated e-readers." The idea here is that killing a technology to make money in other areas just drives customers in the wrong psychological direction.

Ah, those contrary customers. They're so hard to figure out.


Next page: the tech news debris for the week of October 12. The tablet 2.0 era.

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Lee Dronick

I wonder how much of the problem with Walmart and other physical stores is that people go there to examine products and then order it online.

John Martellaro

Yep. Customers inspect the item in the physical store and then order it from Amazon on the spot. I read that Best Buy is trying to combat that by meeting Amazon’s price -  if you ask. Then you get to walk out of the store with the product instead of waiting. Has anyone tried it?  That’s probably why Amazon is countering, in some locations, with same day delivery.

Chris Meadows

Yes, Best Buy will price-match Amazon. For that matter, Fry’s Electronics will price-match Amazon or a number of other e-tailers, too. I’ve done it before at both places; it works and they will do it.


Walmart has done to retail what Dell did to PCs. The service one gets at Walmart (There are many others who have copied their business model.) is enough to make me avoid it. There is a Walmart less than a mile from us. It is a rare event for me to walk into that store. We pay a little more for groceries at Publix that is 2 miles away. It is worth it for the service and resulting stress relief. We shop Amazon, Target, Kohl’s etc. for other products. Sam’s has begun to get under my skin.

I have several years in retail management and it is easy to see what the Walmart retail philosophy has done. My wife’s experience exemplifies what has happened. Nine years ago she worked as a sales clerk at CVS Pharmacy here in Florida. Typical staffing was 2 - 4 people on the floor and checkouts. When we moved back to Florida she got her job back. Their staffing is now 1 - 2 people doing the same work. The customers are unhappy and the workers are unhappy. The stress became so overbearing that she quit and later found work in retail at another place which is properly staffed.


Ah, but one factor the Apple Stores do not score on is location, location, location.
WalMart is about two miles from my house. There’s another one three miles in the other direction and another three in the surrounding eight miles.
There’s a Best Buy eight miles away on the other side of town, but I don’t go in there anymore.
GameStop has a SimplyMac store seven miles away in our big mall. It’s a small wanna-be Apple Store, but I have never been in there either.
I have half a dozen Apple Stores between 160 and 230 miles from my home.

All of my Apple devices have been bought online.

Lee Dronick

I have half a dozen Apple Stores between 160 and 230 miles from my home.

Where are you located?

I am fortunate enough to have half a dozen Apple Stores within a half an hour drive from my home in San Diego


I live in “The Queen City of the Ozarks,” third largest city in the state, Springfield, MO.

The closest Apple Store is two-and-a-half to three hours away. I’ve never been in one.

We’ve been crying for Trader Joe’s to come here, but they aren’t interested either.

Lee Dronick

That is the thing. Cities have shops and services, but at the expensive of noise, light, and crowds; I go to the rural areas, deserts, and mountains for the peace and quiet.


Ummm John,  I would LOVE to read the state of Android security, but the link does not work. (Seems there’s no such article here at TMO.)  i searched back to Oct 13th and it’s not there.
North Pole, Ak
PS Yes, Santa Claus is now on the North Pole City Council.
And Yes, again, my kids and I have sat on his lap asking for Christmas presents.


AKjohn if you look at the URL it tries to bring you to the last half is the correct URL:


As noted by Chris Meadows, yes Best buy will match Amazon.

They’ll match just about any online prices, including *their own*. Seriously, don’t go into a best buy and walk out without checking their online pricing. It is often cheaper.  I only go there after researching pricing online first, theirs included. 

That said, I have had terrific experiences buying from best buy- both off-the-shelf and ship-to-store.  I like that they charge the sales tax so I don’t have to voluntarily/mandatorily pay it at tax time. I also don’t get sales pitches from them.

John Martellaro

All: The link to the Android security article is fixed now. Ziploc: thanks for the assist in the meantime.



Your PD selections this past week tell a tale of OSes and the strategic thinking in their origins and evolution.

Two major themes stand out.

First is the concept behind one vs more than one OS to power devices. The piece by Yoni Heisler, and Don Reisinger make clear the vision contrast between not simply Apple and MS, but Apple and the broader industry and analysts. These visions, and their resulting products, namely the Surface and the iPad or even the iPhone, are strikingly different and reflect very different bets on the future.

The Surface was born out the milieu of ‘Windows everywhere’, then the driving force behind MS product development during Ballmer’s tenure. To manifest that vision in a device, MS made a gamble on limited touch screen capability for essentially a PC, powered by a traditional x86 processor. While enabling Windows to power the device, it sacrificed full metal touchscreen capability, and gambled that users would be interested in a PC that required a non-conventional keyboard for full functionality, specifically MS Office, with limited touchscreen capacity, despite it’s looking like a tablet when detached from its keyboard. MS also gambled on the limited battery life afforded by the x86 processor when in touch screen mode. In short, MS’s proposition was that people wanted a PC with limited mobile capability, albeit the driving rationale was the corporate goal to maintain Windows hegemony on an enterprise oriented product. The Surface and Surface Book, are thus PCs with modest touch screen capability.

Apple’s vision, in contrast, appears to have had its origin with the user experience on a differentiated product from the PC. By definition, it would be mobile, and fully functional as a touchscreen device for all core functions, including productivity apps such as iWork (and now MS Office). To achieve that, a new CPU would be required to enable sufficient battery life for a reasonable user experience, powered by a novel OS. In short, from its conception and written into its DNA, the iPad - of whatever iteration including the Pro - is a mobile device.

Apple, further, appears to have thought deeply enough about this to have, from the outset, touted both consumption and productivity on this device. Pursuant of Moore’s Law, it would only be a matter of when, not if, the ARM CPU would be powerful enough to perform PC - level functions on the mobile platform, while preserving both outstanding battery life and full functionality via the touch screen. Apple could not simply rely on increasingly more powerful CPUs, but the adaptability of the newly created OS to take advantage of that power, and become progressively more capable and feature rich, whilst remaining purely mobile. True, the iPad Pro will support a dedicated keyboard and a stylus, but these are for specialised uses, and unlike the Surface, not required for accessing core device functionality. That Apple have further been able to harmonise functional features between their PC and mobile products and OSes is a testament to longterm planning and preparation.

Under these conditions, the case for merging OS X and iOS is thus bewildering and suggests a fundamental failure to appreciate the objective of Apple’s broader platform. Apple have demonstrated their ability to preserve user experience on the two-OS design (now three, if we include Apple Watch). It is now up to MS to similarly validate the one OS approach using the same indicator.

Second, a brief word on the origin and evolution of the mobile OS; the contrast between the inherent robustness of iOS (capability and security) and Android is an object lesson worthy of an operatic morality play. Brad Reed’s article on Android security makes clear how important not simply minimising fragmentation, but thinking through industry-standard security on an adaptable design is for the longterm. Google appear to have purchased their goal of rushing out an OS, using ‘borrowed’ technology whose immanent security limitations they did not appreciate, at a Faustian price. Should Android users suffer real world data compromise, Google may have no option but to start afresh, designing their own OS from the ground up.

Apple’s mobile device strategy may be on a more gradual trajectory than either Google’s or MS’s, but the telemetry is outstanding, seems to face fewer headwinds, and augurs well for continued upward development.

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